9. "Who Could Have Foreseen It?"
A dreadful thing has happened to us. Who could have foreseen it? I cannot foresee any
end to our troubles. It may be that we are condemned to spend our whole lives in this
strange, inaccessible place. I am still so confused that I can hardly think clearly of the
facts of the present or of the chances of the future. To my astounded senses the one seems
most terrible and the other as black as night.
No men have ever found themselves in a worse position; nor is there any use in
disclosing to you our exact geographical situation and asking our friends for a relief
party. Even if they could send one, our fate will in all human probability be decided long
before it could arrive in South America.
We are, in truth, as far from any human aid as if we were in the moon. If we are to win
through, it is only our own qualities which can save us. I have as companions three
remarkable men, men of great brain-power and of unshaken courage. There lies our one
and only hope. It is only when I look upon the untroubled faces of my comrades that I see
some glimmer through the darkness. Outwardly I trust that I appear as unconcerned as
they. Inwardly I am filled with apprehension.
Let me give you, with as much detail as I can, the sequence of events which have led us
to this catastrophe.
When I finished my last letter I stated that we were within seven miles from an enormous
line of ruddy cliffs, which encircled, beyond all doubt, the plateau of which Professor
Challenger spoke. Their height, as we approached them, seemed to me in some places to
be greater than he had stated--running up in parts to at least a thousand feet--and they
were curiously striated, in a manner which is, I believe, characteristic of basaltic
upheavals. Something of the sort is to be seen in Salisbury Crags at Edinburgh. The
summit showed every sign of a luxuriant vegetation, with bushes near the edge, and
farther back many high trees. There was no indication of any life that we could see.
That night we pitched our camp immediately under the cliff--a most wild and desolate
spot. The crags above us were not merely perpendicular, but curved outwards at the top,
so that ascent was out of the question. Close to us was the high thin pinnacle of rock
which I believe I mentioned earlier in this narrative. It is like a broad red church spire, the
top of it being level with the plateau, but a great chasm gaping between. On the summit
of it there grew one high tree. Both pinnacle and cliff were comparatively low--some five
or six hundred feet, I should think.
"It was on that," said Professor Challenger, pointing to this tree, "that the pterodactyl was
perched. I climbed half-way up the rock before I shot him. I am inclined to think that a
good mountaineer like myself could ascend the rock to the top, though he would, of
course, be no nearer to the plateau when he had done so."